Part animal and part intellectual, an image found in virtually every Indian home, Ganesa, the elephant-headed god, is one of the most important and popular gods throughout India and Hindu Southeast Asia. In this, the first comprehensive, full-length study of Ganesa, Courtright covers not merely the mythology but also the ritual, the political uses, and the modern as well as the Vedic manifestations of the god. The book begins with a consideration of the various myths of Ganesa, stories of his birth, his beheading by his father Siva, and his subsequent restoration as the lord who gives, or withholds, success in undertakings. In the end, the author turns to the role Ganesa has played in recent Indian history as the patron deity of some formulations of neotraditionalist values and ideology. Throughout the book, Courtright portrays both the complexity of the deity's many roles and stories and the integrated manner in which they come together.
Excerpt from the Preface by Wendy O'Flaherty:
"Ganesa has everything that is fascinating to anyone who is interested in religion or India or both: charm, mystery, popularity, sexual problems, moral ambivalence, political importance, the works. One can start from Ganesa and work from there in an unbroken line to almost any aspect of Indian culture."
"Excellent intro text."--W. Sax, University of Canterbury (New Zealand)
"Reads easily...informative. Gives alternative views, balanced, clear. Recommended as a good source book."--Forrest Wood, University of Southern Mississippi
"Paul Courtright's ingenuity and skill have produced a comprehensive, interesting study about one of India's most popular gods....Definately a must for the mythologist and indologist alike. It is a critical, thorough study that has been long overdue."--New Canadian Review
"Balances rich textural, anthropological, and interpretive resources....An opulent exposition of Ganesa and his worship."--Choice
"Intelligent and eminently readable."--Religious Studies Review
"Seasoned and insightful, obviously based on many years of thought, research, writing, and rewriting....Crammed full of information, well organized, and still a delight to read....Masterful."--Journal of the American Academy of Religion
"Another of [the] year's treasures." -- Commonweal
"Courtright has collected much primary material, especially from the Puranas, presented some possible ways of understanding it, and culled the best of the secondary literature. In these respects, the book contributes significantly to the study of Sanskritic Hinduism and its regional realization."--Journal of Religion